Baptist child dedication services

I was talking to someone earlier who was talking about being on the cradle roll at a Baptist church (in Wales, if that makes any difference) 40+ years ago. They were asking whether this meant they had been "dedicated".

It seems fairly standard practice today for Baptists - and, I think, others including some Anglicans - to have "dedication services" which are more-or-less a special service where a child is recognised and where parents make some kind of promise about how they are going to bring the child up, but isn't y'know, baptism.

But this conversation has made me wonder how long this practice has been going. Presumably originally it was a "non-Christening" for non-conformists who wanted that kind of thing for their kids.

But then maybe at various times in the past children might have been involved in the (Baptist) church without their parents. For example for some time in the 19 century, the Baptist Sunday School was the sole form of education of young children.

Would those children have been on a cradle roll if they weren't from church-going families? How far back do the "child dedication" services go? Any ideas?

Comments

  • The C of E does indeed have a rather lovely service - 'Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child' - which can be used as a preliminary to, or instead of, Baptism:
    https://churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/common-worship/christian-initiation/rites-way-approaching-baptism#nn01

    I don't believe we've ever used it at Our Place, though I'm sure we would if requested. AFAIK, something similar has been available in the C of E for quite a few years (at least since The Alternative Service Book 1980, I think).

    Perhaps Baptist Trainfan will happen along soon to give us the Baptist Church's take on this.

    Records show that Our Place had 400* children in the Sunday School at the time when the present church was built in 1908 (the original Mission Church dating from 1892). I daresay most, if not all, of them had been baptised, as was, of course, quite common practice in those far-off days.

    *I bet that by no means all their respective parents were at the morning Solemn Mass, though!

    IJ
  • Yes, I think that the practice in English Anglican churches probably came with the ASB. But presumably this was a reflection of non conformist practice? Or is it a relic of an older Anglican practice which was only reflected in the liturgy in 1980?
  • I don't think it's a relic of an older practice - certainly not IME - but others may be able to confirm one way or t'other.

    IIRC, it wasn't part of the burgeoning liturgical renewal of the 60s and 70s represented by Series 1, 2, and 3, but I stand to be corrected.

    IJ
  • Right, this is really what I'm asking. Did Baptist dedication services exist before the 1970s?

    I suspect the Anglicans basically copied what other people were doing - but when did the thing they were copying start?
  • Yes but I am going on my memory but as long as I can recall my parents have always talked of children in Baptist churches being dedicated. That would pre-date the 1970s. By the 1970s my father (URC minister) was offering dedication services for families who were not regular attendees at worship.

    Jengie
  • MudfrogMudfrog Shipmate
    The Salvation Army replaced infant baptism in 1883 with dedication services and even those were optional.
    The cradle roll is a separate matter.
    It's basically a pre-Sunday school register .
  • My guess is that 'Infant blessings', instead of baptism, came into the CofE with the ASB.

    https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/anvil/12-2_137.pdf

    It supposedly avoids baptising infants of parents who are neither of them obviously believing. The terms of The Covenant under which infants are baptised require at least one parent to be a baptised believer, (there being no other legitimately scriptural warrant to administer baptism to an infant).

    The irony is though that believing parents who believe baptism to be only admissible to believing adults turn sometimes to 'services of blessing', as an acceptably biblical 'substitute' for infant baptism. Unfortunately there is even less scriptural evidence or examples for 'services of infant dedication' in the New Testament, than there is for infant baptism.

    At least infant baptism can be justified on scriptural grounds and a theological case put forward for its practice, based upon Covenant Theology. Infant blessing on the other hand has only the Old Testament example of 1 Sam.1:21-28 where Samuel is 'lent to the Lord' by his mother Hannah, as a claim to a sort of biblical authenticity. It is hardly a precedent for 'dedicating an infant' who is entitled by covenant to the sacrament of baptism, as the sign and seal of God's adoption and providence. And if the infant is definitely of unbelieving parents, why should they want even a 'blessing' service, let alone baptism?

    Blessing does at least satisfy the qualms felt by some priests or ministers that they may be baptising an infant which has no legitimate scriptural right to the sacrament. The issue is a difficult one however because how can anyone be certain that either parents of any infant are actually known by God to be 'believing'. There is no gift of discernment which can tell if a person is truly 'believing'. So the church simply has to accept and believe as evidence, the statements of the parents concerning whether they believe in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are baptised, (and preferably confirmed), themselves, (or at least one of them), and will bring the child up 'in the fear and nurture of The Lord', and see that he/she is educated in God's ways, with an expectation that God will reveal his purpose for them in due course, in later life. The responsibility for making such statements of belief are entirely the responsibility before God of the Parents concerned.

    All this can of course be safely left in God's hands anyway. So it probably makes little material difference if an infant is either 'dedicated', 'baptised' or even 'christened' to use the slang term or even none of the above.
    ____________________________________
    In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 2 Cor. 5:19. Love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Pet. 4:8.
  • mr cheesy wrote: »
    Right, this is really what I'm asking. Did Baptist dedication services exist before the 1970s?

    I suspect the Anglicans basically copied what other people were doing - but when did the thing they were copying start?

    Yes, definitely. I was dedicated in 1963, and my sister 2 years before that. In Scotland, but I'm sure this is an old-ish baptist thing.
  • RdrEmCofE you have the wrong thread if you think I'm discussing the rights and wrongs of infant baptism in the Church of England. The clue is in the title of the thread.
  • MudfrogMudfrog Shipmate
    Salvation Army Dedication Ceremony:

    In the dedication of this child you desire to give him/her fully to God. You wish to thank God for entrusting this precious life into your hands, and you want him/her to be nurtured in all that is pure, lovely and honest. To this end you promise that you will keep from him/her, so far as you are able, everything which is likely to harm him/her in body, mind or spirit.
    You also promise that, as he/she grows in wisdom and stature, you will teach him/her the
    truths of the gospel, encourage him/her to seek Christ as Saviour, and support him/her in the commitment of his/her life to the service of God.
    You must be to him/her an example of a true Christian.

    If you are willing to make these promises, I will receive the child in the name of God, and
    on behalf of The Salvation Army.

    7. The officer shall take the child and ask the congregation to stand. Where the child is no
    longer an infant the officer should take him by the hand and lead him to his side. He shall then address the congregation as follows:


    In the name of the Lord and, on behalf of the XYZ Corps of The Salvation Army, I receive this child. . . (and here he will give all the names of the child) in recognition of the promises
    which have been made by his/her parents this day.

    8. The officer (or some other person) shall then offer prayer.

    9. The officer shall, at this or some other convenient point, address the congregation, reminding them that they are not only witnesses to the ceremony, but also participants in it, and as such are pledged to support the parents in their spiritual responsibilities.

    10. The officer shall then say to the parents:

    In returning . . .(first name of the child) into your care, I charge you to care for him/her in
    the name of the Lord, and to keep the promises that you have made concerning him/her.



    Salvation Army Thanksgiving Service for those not willing to make the full promises of the dedication:

    In presenting this child, to God, you wish to give thanks to him for his precious gift. You
    want him/her to grow up to be healthy, wise and, good, and, you therefore promise that you will keep from him/her, so far as you are able, everything which is likely to harm him/her in body, mind or soul. If this is your intention, I will receive the child.

    5. The officer shall then take the child and pray as follows:

    Dear heavenly Father, we thank you for the precious gift of this child. . . (and here he shall
    give all the names of the child). Take him/her into your care and give to his/her parents
    wisdom to teach and train him/her in all that is pure, lovely and honest. In accepting this
    responsibility, may they at all times seek your help and guidance. In the name of the Father, and, of the Son, and of the HoIy Spirit. Amen.



  • How far do you think that goes back, Mudfrog?
  • Sorry not to have contributed before ... I knew something erudite had been published on the subject but I had to hunt for it! This article: https://tinyurl.com/ydzca2xw tells you all that might need to know. What's interesting is that, while the practice of Infant Dedication seem,s to originate in the (Ana)baptists as early as 1525, it doesn't seem to have become prevalent among English General Baptists until the late Victorian era (see p.80f) and, even then, it was for a long time somewhat controversial
  • MudfrogMudfrog Shipmate
    mr cheesy wrote: »
    How far do you think that goes back, Mudfrog?

    The present wording about 20 years, but the older version goes back to 1883. The thanksgiving is a new innovation.
  • Thanks, all very interesting.
  • Indeed, and we see that the general concept goes back to before the Reformation! A salutary thought, perhaps?

    IJ
  • MudfrogMudfrog Shipmate
    Indeed, and we see that the general concept goes back to before the Reformation! A salutary thought, perhaps?

    IJ

    Do I infer that 'before the Reformation' implies an endorsement of pre-Reformation practice and therefore a suggestion that post-Reformation 'we' lost something?, or that actually infant dedication has some Biblical precedent - e.g. Hannah and baby Samuel?
  • Well, I was merely picking up on the date 1525 mentioned by Baptist Trainfan (and, on reflection, the Reformation was actually under way by then).

    The 'we' was referring to those of us reading this thread. Whether anything was 'lost' post-Reformation, I couldn't say.

    IJ
  • ashleyashley Shipmate
    I usually only lurk on these boards, but this is something we've been through recently as a family so tempts me to post :smile:

    Our four children all received dedication services in C of E churches, as per the order that Bishop's Finger referred to. For our first two this as at a large city-centre charasmatic evangelical congregation - our latter two (twins) were at a smaller, local church in a different city, bit closer to the middle ground C of E but "moderately" evangelical.

    At both churches, about 50% of new-parent members opted for dedication over baptism. Some were from Baptist or independent church backgrounds and didn't "get" infant baptism as a concept. But for some I suspect there might have been a desire (possibly not even consious) to do something a bit different from the norm. As per the recent thread on it, some congregations do struggle to know how to handle baptisms of non-members' children. Although there is of course an irony there that the liturgy Bishop's Finger referred to I think was intended for vicars to be able to offer to parents who do not feel able to make the commitments required in a baptism. Whereas in my experience, dedications were more common for regulars and non-members' families invariably wanted baptism.

    My wife is from a Baptist background. Her family's more recent C of E parish was in a very picturesque building and had baptisms of non-members' children very frequently. The church made their best efforts to be welcoming, to make sure they were suitably prepared and possibly attend some other services etc etc, but the sheer frequency of them, the impact they have on the regular congregation, and the rarity of seeing any of them again after their baptisms, made it hard not to get cynical and worn down about the whole area.

    In both our churches, the vicars preferred to offer baptism, but both were willing to do either, and I presume out of respect for my wife's previous tradition, didn't make any particular attempt to pursuade us towards their views.
  • Thanks, ashley, and welcome aboard!

    Your wife's family's church sounds a bit like The Place Next Door To Our Place, where they have simply had to restrict most Baptisms to a Sunday afternoon slot, unless the peeps concerned are already church attenders.

    It's interesting to note that the service of Thanksgiving etc. is sometimes more in demand than full Baptism (IYSWIM - I intend no derogatory wossname towards those who choose the former). AFAIK, we haven't been asked for Thanksgiving at Our Place in the 10 years I've been there.

    FWIW, I'd be happy to offer either, depending on the family concerned. People are where they are, not necessarily where one would like them to be!

    IJ
  • As an ecumenical church, we can offer infant baptism (though I don't preside). We can offer dedications (with specific promises to bring the child up in the Christian faith) and thanksgiving/blessing (no promises except to seek to be good parents).
  • Which covers pretty well all bases!
    :grin:

    IJ
  • OffeiriadOffeiriad Shipmate
    edited March 2018
    As far as I know, the 'modern' restoration of Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child, or whatever one wants to call it, dates from the time of Revd Christopher Wansey, Vicar of Roydon, Hertfordshire in the 1960s-70s, and the 'Baptismal Reform Movement' which grew up around him. The BRM managed to stir up a fair old storm on the subject of indiscriminate infant baptism, and those with a good 'eye' for history can see traces of their impact in the Canons of the C of E (revised in the '60s), as well as in the ASB itself. Reform movements on this topic seem prone to splitting between those wanting discriminate infant baptism, and total abolitionists.
  • It was certainly taken up by Clifford Owen in "Baptise every baby?" in the early 90s. He was a Curate in Stowmarket and then a Vicar in (I think) Bordon in Hampshire.
  • As an ecumenical church, we can offer infant baptism (though I don't preside). We can offer dedications (with specific promises to bring the child up in the Christian faith) and thanksgiving/blessing (no promises except to seek to be good parents).

    As a Church of Scotland Minister, I can, and do, do all these things as well!
  • As an ecumenical church, we can offer infant baptism (though I don't preside). We can offer dedications (with specific promises to bring the child up in the Christian faith) and thanksgiving/blessing (no promises except to seek to be good parents).

    There is a LEP in Southampton at Lordswood which is Baptist/Anglican in the same building. I imagine that a workable relationship exists between the two congregations and the ministers, as far as I am aware, share duties.

    Most Baptist ministers don't object to infant baptism. They just don't do it themselves, nor perhaps fully understand why others denominations do.

    I feel its certainly better to have a, (not in the New Testament), Baptist blessing followed by a Christian upbringing leading to adult baptism followed by a lifetime of faith informed living than a, (not in the New Testament), Anglican infant baptism followed by a secular upbringing and a life outside of any church apart from the occasional embarrassed visit during a wedding, christening or funeral.

    In fact the practical requirements of a Christian upbringing, in a loving family and church environment where the child will learn not only God's ways but also be led to expect God to be interested in their welfare and progress in the faith, leading eventually to a time when they have a mature relationship with God on their own terms, is identical for Both Baptists and for Anglicans.

    It seems to me that Baptists just think Anglicans are too hasty with baptism, by a dozen or so years, and some Anglicans think there is no need to 'put it all off' until they are 'ready for it', so they get it all over while they are too young to object, like used to happen with the pre-New Testament sign and seal of God's adoption of infants i.e. circumcision.

    Either way, its all in God's hands really.
  • Cathscats wrote: »
    As an ecumenical church, we can offer infant baptism (though I don't preside). We can offer dedications (with specific promises to bring the child up in the Christian faith) and thanksgiving/blessing (no promises except to seek to be good parents).

    As a Church of Scotland Minister, I can, and do, do all these things as well!

    With added Haggis!
  • Hard to baptise with haggis. But there is the water of life.....
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited March 2018
    A bit expensive if you're doing total immersion, and such a waste .
  • And you wonder why the CofS is largely paedobaptist.

    Jengie
  • AravisAravis Shipmate
    I was dedicated in a Baptist church in 1966, which was common practice then.
    The cradle roll was a separate thing entirely. Any child who turned up regularly at Sunday School was asked if they had younger siblings. If the parents agreed, the child was added to the cradle roll. I think the church sent birthday cards and certainly encouraged the parents to send them to Sunday School when they were older.
    I still remember the song we sang when a new name was added:
    “Your name is on our cradle roll
    Little baby dear.
    As soon as you are big enough
    You may join us here.
    Songs and stories you will hear
    (forgotten next line!)
    God bless you, little baby dear,
    Bless you day by day.”
  • MudfrogMudfrog Shipmate
    Could it be that where the state church is weak (as in the UK and other northern European countries) and offers a cultural Christening to people who are nominally connected to the local parish and feel that getting the baby Christened is merely a rite of passage, all that is happening is that the greater population is being inoculated against religion?
  • I do not think Baptism per se inoculates people against religion, you might as well argue that what is served up in school assemblies in the name of religion does that far more effectively. If you want to go that route then you need to include an understanding of 'implicit religion'. Basically, I see sociologists who argue the inoculation line as too pessimistic while many of the 'implicit religion' group are too optimistic.
  • For us poor, weak, feeble C of E parishes, a Baptism enquiry (whether infant or adult) offers a pastoral opportunity without having to go out looking for it.

    Whether it is 'cultural' or not, whatever that may mean, should not be the prime concern. The prime concern is to seize the chance to preach the Gospel.

    IJ
  • Mudfrog wrote: »
    Could it be that where the state church is weak (as in the UK and other northern European countries) and offers a cultural Christening to people who are nominally connected to the local parish and feel that getting the baby Christened is merely a rite of passage, all that is happening is that the greater population is being inoculated against religion?

    What might we infer from the notion of a 'strong state church' as opposed to a 'weak state church', (which you seem to think the UK has along with other northern European countries, presumably with the exception of Southern Ireland).

    A church which offers advice and critique to a state which ignores it is not in my opinion 'weak' or ineffective. Jesus offered advice and critique and the state, (or the religious establishment for that matter), didn't listen to him.

    It is basically the parish church concept that makes the CofE a state church, and the fact that the monarch is supposedly a Christian who upholds the doctrines of The Church of England that makes it a 'state church', not the extent to which the law of the land is determined by the CofE and its bishops. It is recognised that legislation is not a function that the church should be driving. Amendment of legislation before enactment is a legitimate and necessary precautionary function though.

    The church in this nation has always comprised of all nationals who broadly comply with the teaching of Christ and obey the law of the land. That covers pretty well all denominations beside the CofE. The CofE has always comprised of classes of believer from fervent to almost non-believing regarding intellectual ascent to doctrine and practice. Each local CofE community can be seen as a series of radiating concentric circles of commitment to christian values. At the centre you have the clery, lay ministers, faithful lay persons, next out you might have family of those fully committed, next friends of those family, next those who generally are attracted by the social aspects of the faith, but not its minutia; and so on. Persons move sometimes between one concentric circle and another depending on their level of understanding and commitment to God's will for them.

    This is in line, in my opinion, with a scripturally verifiable view of the very nature of 'The Kingdom of God' i.e it grows organically and imperceptibly, not by imposition, political coercion, or force.

    So if the CofE is offering services of 'blessing' for parents of infants who occupy those outlying concentric circles of commitment, as a compromise to proper baptism, that's fine. For those who are fully committed believers however Baptism would be the preferred option, there being little doubt of the parent's declaration of faith in the Triune God who has declared Himself in scripture to be the only saviour of both them and their children.
    ____________________________________
    In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 2 Cor. 5:19. Love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Pet. 4:8.
  • Since people have mentioned CofE services - what CW and ASB provides / provided is Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child, not a dedication service -though we might debate whether there is a difference.

    As people have suggested, this provision came in with series 3 I(and was called Thanksgiving for the Birth / Adoption of a child there - later changed to 'gift'. The driver for this was clergy trying to offer liturgical ministry to families who could not in conscience make the baptismal promises. Clergy in one deanery in London diocese did some extensive research on this and published their findings, a copy of which I have somewhere....

    There is an urban liturgical myth that this service replaced the Churching of Women, which is historically not true, even though the late great Michael Perham makes this mistake in his book on Pastoral Liturgy.

    Current usage is twofold: some churches offer this as an alternative to infant baptism for those (parents) who cannot in conscience make the baptismal promises (or who do not believe in infant baptism); others offer this a preliminary to baptism (of infants) - either as part of a two-part package or as 'we'll do the thanksgiving right away and discuss the possibility of a baptism afterwards.' Used intelligently and sensitively, this service can be a useful pastoral resource.
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